A friend and I have been planning our Halloween gowns. A little early, yeah! She had an awesome idea of being a fox, interpreted as a Victorian bustle gown with four parts (yikes) - evening bodice, skirt, apron, and detachable train. Insane, yes, so I've decided to also do a complicated and insane costume. She's a fox...I will be an owl. A barn owl, specifically. There will be two pieces to the costume, done in late 18th c., as a chemise dress (gaulle) and a robe over that. The chemise dress is straightforward, but the robe will have an enormous, slightly trained feathered skirt. Completely feathered. And when I say completely feathered, I mean COMPLETELY. I've seen people do peacock dresses or other bird-inspired dresses and not put enough feathers on them and they just don't look right to me. If you're going to do feather, do it all the way. I can understand why people don't do this - A) it's not so easy working with feathers, and B) it's COSTLY. Feathers are not cheap, especially if you need literally thousands of them.
The robe will be a combination of schleppen feather trim (rooster tails, basically), and banded rock feather trim (longer and fatter than rooster, to use more towards the bottom). By trim I mean the feathers have been attached to a band of some sort and can be sewn on in strips instead of one-by-one. If I stack it correctly, the feathers should look somewhat natural. The feathers will be sewn onto a base of probably broadcloth or some other lightweight, inexpensive cotton fabric, and the skirt twill be lined with something sortof nice. The bodice of the robe will be silk or something like, in a cream color, and the feathers will "emerge" from the box pleat openings at the waist.
The idea is that it won't look ridiculous, but graceful, beautiful, and impressive. The color palette is muted and natural, and I want to maintain the proper silhouette. The lines of this dress are very important. As for actually wearing the thing, I'm not too worried about weight, but it might be difficult to dance in. I will have a loop at the hem, for dancing, and of course I can take it off and have the chemise dress underneath, which ought to keep me cool enough. I will need to spend time on the owl mask and also find a wig and get it all huge.
I won't be starting on this gown for some time, although the chemise dress might become my next project. I can wear it for other events. I will need to work on the feathered robe for a long time, so starting it within the next couple months is not a bad idea. It took me 1.5 years to get my Halloween bustle gown done! (but primarily because I didn't have anywhere to wear it the first year, so I just didn't press myself to finish it.) After the chemise dress, I'll start on draping the robe and getting the pattern exact, as well as figuring out the particulars on the feathering, and how exactly this is all going to work. :-).
For now, I have a lot of voile to order.